Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Devil's Food White Out Cake - Dorie Greenspan

I made this white out cake by Dorie Greenspan.  But I only made the cake part, not the marshmallow cream frosting.  And I didn't crumble a layer on the outside of the cake.  I was simply making it to taste the flavor and texture of the cake portion.  In all the reading and research I've done on cakes the past few weeks, Dorie's name has come up quite a bit.  I am going to buy her cookbook that seems to be the most popular among bakers.  Her name is familiar to me, so I'm guessing she's been around awhile and is pretty famous in the baking world.  I'm showing my ignorance by admitting I didn't know who she was until now.

I used Hersey for the cocoa powder since it's the only brand I had on hand and Ghirardelli for the semi sweet and bitter sweet chocolates.  I baked it for 25 minutes on 325, instead of 350, rotating once.  I think I should have baked for 23 minutes. 

The taste of this cake is totally different from the other two I made.  It's far less sweet.  Really more chocolately than sweet, if that makes sense.  It's super dense.  I like dense cake, but this was almost too dense for even me.  It was a heavy, hardy and stable cake, and would be ideal for carving for specialty cakes covered in fondant.
I need to figure out how to lighten it up just a little bit and I think it would be perfect.  I like it because it isn't too sweet, whereas DJ didn't like it as much because of the lack of sweetness.  I figure every cake is gonna have frosting, which is almost always too sweet, so this is a nice compliment to the frosting.  I made a chocolate cream cheese frosting from Cupcake Project to go with the cake and the two combined were way yummy.

I want to try this cake recipe out as cupcakes too.

I'm going to remake the frosting with some personal variations.  Here is my adaptation of the recipe, to be tried on the next cake.

Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

10 oz softened cream cheese (possibly 12 ounces)

1/4 C unsalted butter, softened

3-3 1/2 c sifted powdered sugar

1/2 c cocoa powder

1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

  1. Cream butter and cream cheese in a mixer
  2. Mix in powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time
  3. Mix in cocoa powder and vanilla

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

One Bowl Chocolate Cake - Martha Stewart

When I decided to try this recipe by Martha Stewart I realized that it was VERY similar to Mel's Kitchen Cafe Chocolate cake.  So after looking over Mel's recipe again, I realize her version was adapted from a Martha Steward recipe.  Ah ha! 
This one bowl chocolate cake recipe had some slight differences, one of which was the type of cocoa powder.  This one called for Dutch cocoa, which creates a dark chocolate cake.  It also has less oil.  I guess that good if you're on a diet (which I am), but the final result wasn't good enough to make my top list.  I ain't looking for healthy cakes here... :)

The cake was pretty intense with dark chocolate flavor, almost too bitter.  It wasn't moist enough for me.  I baked it for 25 minutes, versus the 35 the recipe called for.  And it was definitely done at 25 minutes.  It did bake up nice and tall, so I did like that.  I noticed that one side of one of the cakes was lower than the other.  I think I need to start rotating my cakes halfway through baking times.  This crappy oven isn't doing me any favors.

If I can't find any decent dark chocolate cake recipes in the coming months I may try this one again but modify it.  I think I'd add more oil, possibly another egg yoke and maybe a touch more sugar.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Kahly's Birthday Cake/Cupcake Surprise

Kahly and her friends birthday party was in downtown Seattle at the Washington Athlectic Club (WAC), which is a very high end club with lots of restaurants and who knows what else.  They were able to get a sports bar room reserved for their party because Kahly's friend, Kaitlyn, has a boyfriend who is a member.  I had no idea how nice that place was and it was a bit intimidating dropping off my ameture cake and cupcakes there.

I spent a couple hours on Saturday afternoon frosting the premade cupcakes with my premade frosting and layering and frosting the cake (also premade).  I packed up all the little gumpaste flowers and decided to put them onto the cupcakes after I got them set up at the WAC.  Making the frosting on the cake was the hardest part of the whole thing for me.  The Swiss Meringue frosting is delicious, but airy, and doesn't smooth out perfectly like I wanted.  But I got it as smooth as I could and had to just be happy with it.  I need to figure out how to remove the air bubbles from that frosting...

I packed everything into the car and DJ, my Grandma Ulmer and the kids and I headed downtown to drop it off.  We decided to go to dinner afterwards, so it was just easier for everyone to tag along.  It also made it easier for me because I was able to hold the cakes in my lap and no worry about it.

When I met Kahly at the WAC she was so excited that I had surprised her with more than just a tray of cupcakes.  I took all the cake and supplies to the room and got to work setting things up.  She was SO SO HAPPY, which made me extremely happy too.  I'm so glad she loved it. 

OH, and a little side story from the day before the party.  A lady at the WAC contacted Kahly and told her she couldn't bring outside food into the club (after they had already been told they could).  She was being very difficult and finally said that they could as long as it was from a catering company or bake shop.  SO... I whipped up a business card in about 20 minutes and added a business email address and sent that over to them.  I set my business card out by the cake just in case there were any issues, but the lady that was being difficult wasn't working that night and everything went smoothly.  Kaitlyn's boyfriend is a lawyer and drafted me up some LLC papers just in case too. Very thorough!

So the next day Kahly got ahold of me and let me know how well the cake and cupcakes were received at the party.  Her words were: Everyone thought they were the best cupcakes and cake they had tasted and thought that I was a legit business, wanting to know if I did events and wedding.  One of her friends there has a catering business and said my red velvet cake was hands down the best she had ever tasted and told Kahly that she wanted my business card.  Kahly explained that I wasn't a real business and her friend said that I absolutely should be and to contact her when I am.  Another friend asked if I would do her wedding cake! 

I was happy as a kite that night and was glowing from all the praise. :)  It was so fun to do these cupcakes and cakes, I loved every minute of it!  I learned so much.

So based on the fact that I love doing this so much and on the rave reviews I got from one party, I'm considering actually working towards having some kind of cake business.  I figure I've got a good 2-3 years before the kids are all in regular school and I'm going to use those years to build up a rock solid recipe index of cakes, frostings and fillings.  And I'll continue to practice piping, fondant and other decorating styles.  I think I'll try to take a few more classes in that department too.  During this time I'll just do stuff for free or for cost of materials, and try to get some kind of portfolio built.  Then, maybe, just maybe, I'll be ready for a real business venture once the kids are in school. 

It's VERY intimidating to dive into this industry.  It's highly competitive and is thoroughly saturated already, so I'm realistic in what I want out of it.  I think the main thing will be to have fun, give myself a creative outlet and challenge myself along the way.  I'm definitely not setting out to make a bunch of money, but more give myself a sense of "self" and learn and push myself.  Should be an adventure!!!  I may eventually switch all my cake ramblings over to a different blog, but for now this one will do.

The camera used to take the pictures was just a point and shoot, so there really aren't any good ones that capture the colors or the little details like I had hoped.  The monogramed K's and the pink centers of the gumpaste flowers are painted with pearl dust for added shimmer and the little rhinestones went along with their theme for the party.  The rhinestones were the only thing not edible on the cakes.

Unbelievable Chocolate Cake - Mel's Kitchen Cafe

Onto chocolate cake!  This cake recipe from Mel's Kitchen Cafe is SO GOOD.  Provided you don't have an overflowing mess in your oven like I did the first time I made it, it is already at the top of my list of chocolate cake recipes.  I've made it twice now, neither time turned out perfect, but both times it tasted delicious.  I can only imagine how good it will be when I finally master it.  It's dense and moist and has fantastic texture and flavor. I think I'd classify this cake as your basic traditional chocolate cake, boarding on a devils food chocolate cake. 

Chocolate cake testing is a harder one for me, since it's not my favorite kind of cake.  I know, that's almost blasphamous in the baking world, but there ya have it.  However, THIS chocolate cake has made me a fan.  I really did love it.  It will be hard to find something better that will top it.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream - Annie's Eats

The final frosting that I tried ended up being the one I went with.  It was another Swiss Meringue Buttercream from Annie's Eats, with just a few little changes from the first recipe I made.  This one had just the right combo of ingredients and turned out delicious.  I had my Grandma Ulmer at my house for the week I was finalizing the cupcakes and cake and it was so fun to have her tasting and testing with me.  She couldn't stop licking the beaters with this frosting, it was that yummy.

I made the frosting several times and I learned a lot along the way.  I found out that if you even have the tiniest drop of egg yok in your egg whites, a drop that you thought you took out but must not have gotten it all, the eggs won't whip up stiff.  In the end, I mastered it and the frosting turned out amazing.  It pipes wonderfully too.  It isn't too sweet and is light and creamy.  It's my new go-to frosting.  And I'm excited to take the recipe and add variations to it, like brown sugar, chocolate, peanut butter, strawberries, etc.

Monday, May 9, 2011

White Cake - The Way the Cookie Crumbles

I have finally found a winner!  YEAH!  I took a major hit on my diet while testing all these recipes so I'm glad the search is over.  There are three recipes on this post from The Way the Cookie Crumbles.  It was a great to know I wasn't the only one struggling to find the perfect recipe.  I made the third recipe, which was her variation on the other two.  EXCEPT, I used buttermilk instead of milk and did all vanilla extract, no almond.  They had delicious flavor, were super moist and were dense.  I've decided I don't like airy cupcakes. Blah.  I made 24 cupcakes with the batter, but filled them too full for my liking.  Next time I need to only do them a scant 2/3 full.  Baked them for only 13-14 minutes.  Some of them came out just overdone and some came out just slightly underdone.  Regardless, all of them tasted delicious. 

I took some to my Mom and sisters last Thursday night for taste testing and they all agreed they were top rate cupcakes.  SO happy!

I topped them with a Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting from Beantwon Baker.  I'm not sure why I tried this frosting recipe, because clearly from the photos it's not a "stiff" frosting.  I was just too intrigued by the brown sugar part.  The frosting was VERY yummy.  I loved it.  But it's no dice for frosting cupcakes that need to hold their shape.  It's a keeper for regular situations though!

Over the weekend I also retested the Swiss meringue frosting i had in the fridge.  I left it out to get room temp and rewhipped it up.  It held it's shape pretty well and isn't too sweet which is a requirement for Kahly.

I also made another frosting to go on Kahly's family birthday cake on Saturday.  I made Mel's Kitchen Cafe Magic Frosting.  This was another fabulous frosting.  Not too sweet, very creamy, great flavor.  I used it to fill and cover a three tiered rectangle cake.  I took my time frosting the outside of the cake, trying to determine if it would be doable for Kahly's cutting cake.  I wasn't able to get it perfectly smooth like I want.  So I think I'm going to try another swiss buttercream recipe to see if it works better.  The non-fondant covered tier cake is the part that is scaring me the most about this whole endeavor.  I want it to look good!

Cakes, DONE.  Frosting, still working on it. 

I started working on the gumpaste letters and flowers today and just got back from buying a bunch more cake decorating tools.  I love doing this stuff, so fun!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Fluffy Yellow Cake - Annie's Eats

I have a cake decorating class I'm going to tonight, and they asked us to bring a 9x13 cake, so I used the opportunity to try out another recipe.  This one is yellow and not white like I want, but if the flavor is awesome I'd go with yellow.  Problem is, I won't get to taste until after the class. :)

I followed the recipe from Annie's Eats exactly for her fluffly yellow layer cake.  This wasn't the easiest of recipes because of all the room temp ingredients and the egg white whipping.  I thought the cake had decent flavor, it was a bit mild.  But again, I think it was too dry.  One good note, the cake held up really well to cutting and carving in the cake class.  A lot of people's cakes that they brought turned into crumbly messes, but mine held it's shape very well.  Just isn't what I'm looking for in my final cupcake selection though.

Even though I'm not frosting the cake I wanted to try out another frosting recipe today too.  I did a Swiss Meringue Buttercream from Beantown Baker.  Annie's Eats has a very similar recipe that I may try out as well.  With this one, I think I got the egg white mixture too hot in the beginning and it never formed "stiff peaks" like it was suppose to.  But I went ahead and added the butter just to see what happened and it actually turned out fantastic!  It's a really stiff, yet creamy, frosting.  Just what I want.  And this version is not sweat at all, which is what Kahly wants.  It's pretty buttery, but I guess that's to be expected.  It will pipe beautifully.  I am going to try the other swiss meringue recipe just to see if there is any difference, but it looks like I might finally have a frosting that will work! Yeah!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Vanilla Cupcakes - Annie's Eats

This recipe for Vanilla Cupcakes comes from Annie's Eats.  I thought that since her red velvet was divine, that maybe I could go 2 for 2.  NOPE.  The recipe was VERY similar to the one I did from Amber's site, so I opted to add the lemon zest that this recipe said was optional.  I was hopeful it would add to the flavor.  It only slightly improved the flavor and the cupcake was too dry for my liking.  I cooked them for 15 minutes, so I know they weren't overdone.

To go with these cupcakes I made this Easy Vanilla Buttercream frosting, also from Annie's Eats.  I'm still unsure about this frosting.  I put it in the fridge for a couple hours after making it and then brought it almost all the way to room temp and tried to pipe it.  It was a little separated and difficult to pipe.  I have got it sitting at room temp again and will give it one more go before putting in the final verdict. The flavor is good, tastes like your standard sugary buttercream.  ***Update - this frosting just wasn't good enough.  Didn't make the cut.

Red Velvet Cake - Annie's Eats

In addition to finding the perfect white cupcake recipe, I also need to find the perfect Red Velvet Cake recipe.  Red velvet cake is notorious for being tough to make, usually ending up way too dry.  But it's Kahly and her friends favorite kind of cake, so I thought I'd surprise them with their own "cutting cake" made out of the red velvet, just for the two of them.  The cupcakes will all be vanilla with pink frosting, but the cutting cake on top will be red velvet with some kind of frosting to match cupcakes so you can't tell it's red velvet underneath. So fun!

My first red velvet cake comes from Annie's Eats.  I made them into two 6" round cakes instead of cupcakes.  There was no recommendation from her on time for the cake version, so I just did trial and error and had to keep testing them for doneness.  I was so worried that they would be over cooked, so I errored on the side of caution and ended up undercooking them by just a couple minutes.  The very center on the top wasn't quite done, but it didn't affect the rest of the cake. I baked them for 30 minutes and should have done 31-32 minutes instead.  I followed the recipe exactly.  These cakes were AMAZING.  Seriously.  I wouldn't have called my self a red velvet fan prior to eating this cake, but now... well, I'm converted.  It was so moist, so fluffy (yet had good depth) and the flavor was out of this world good.  And the color of the cake, while definitely a "fake" red, was so bright and fun.  I loved everything about this cake.  I am going to try one more recipe just to make sure, but this one is already a clear winner in my mind.

For the frosting, I used the cream cheese frosting that went along with the cake recipe.  I had high hopes since the cake was so good, but I was severly let down.  While this frosting tasted every bit as good as a cream cheese frosting should taste, it was so soft and liquidly, even after being in the refrigerator for several hours, that it barely clung to the sides of the layered cake I made.  It was a soupy mess.  I followed the recipe exactly.  I have no idea where I went wrong.  Based on her post she has used this frosting to do wedding cakes and cupcakes, so I need to figure out what to do differently. I'm getting a little discouraged with frostings at this point.